Just before lunch some of us went to a brick factory. There are several around the Svay Pak area and Pastor Chantha has been trying to share the gospel with some of the workers at these different brick factories and to minister to the families who work there. He first heard about them when someone told him a 13 year old girl was being raped over a 4 year period in one of these brick factories. The parents of the girl didn't really look after her and it seemed she was passed around the commune. Praise God, she was rescued and is now at the Newsong centre.
Many of these laborers who work at the brick factory are not from Svay Pak but come from other provinces. Unfortunately, the conditions in which they work in are appalling. The place is extremely hot and dusty. The owner of the brick factory is really a slave master who keeps these workers in bonded labor so that they will forever be indebted to the owner. If they get sick, they incur medical debts and have to borrow money from the brick owner who is able to keep them working over a longer period of time to pay of their debts. Girls are also sold in this environment and you can understand why that occurs. Many families are desperate to get out of this debt bondage and will do whatever it takes to earn their freedom.
We were given about 20 minutes with the laborers as in this particular brick factory it seems that they have a limited lunch period and then its back to work. It's the only break they will get for the entire day as they work 7 days a week.
Steve & Allie from Bayside explaining the use of masks
Our team went there today as two of the Bayside medics were passing out masks to the workers and explaining to them how to use the masks as they work in the brick kilns. They also helped any who had open wounds and gave out some basic medicines. When I look at the 50 families who live in such squalor conditions and are caught in 'modern day slavery' I found myself asking the question 'Lord why are these people born here' and 'why was I born and raised in a place that has so much.' There is no easy answer to such a question but it was another reminder again that we in the West are blessed to be a blessing.
The Brick families
I have seen much poverty in Cambodia, but this is another level of poverty that gives new meaning and depth to the word oppressed. It really strips away all human freedom, dignity and hope. These people are literally trapped and yet it is in these environments that God is giving a small open door for His light to shine and His hope to enter in. Pastor Chantha has been able to share the gospel with another brick factory owner and invited him to come to church. He gave him a bible and had some good conversations with him and while the owner is yet to come to church, he did appreciate the simple medical treatment that Chantha's team had done and encourages them to come by to help his workers. In addition, the workers of that brick factory now get a day off so that they can go to church. That was totally unheard of but here again, we see God making a way, where there really seems to be no way. Some of the workers have started attending church at The Sanctuary. The brick factory we went today is not as 'open' or 'friendly' but again we pray and trust that these encounters are not just one off events, but will lead to further opportunities to not only speak of the hope we have in Christ but to provide a way for the brick laborers to discover the Hope of Glory!
Some of the homes of the Brick Families
As I reflect on these brick laborers, my mind wanders back to the time in Exodus 3 when the Lord said to Moses 'I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt, I have heard their cries for deliverance from their harsh slave drivers. Yes I am aware of their suffering. So I have come to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them out into their own good and spacious land. Lord, our eyes are on you, may you indeed see Your people, hear their cries and rescue them as you use your servants to demonstrate that you have not forgotten these people, you have engraved them on the palm of Your hands and their walls are ever before you! May you lead them out for your namesake! May you make a way in this wilderness, a way of hope, a way of freedom to the One who is The Way, The Truth and The Life! May it be so, may it be so Lord Jesus!
Well, just a brief note, I will be heading to Singapore tomorrow (Sat) as my one month visa is about to expire and I need to renew it. How time flies---I can't believe that one month is already ended! It was way too quick! At any rate, I will be taking a mini break and visiting friends in Singapore and will be back in Cambodia next Monday evening July 5th so for now, I'll be taking a blogging break and will resume when I am back in town! Thanks for all your prayers and encouraging words.